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WARNING: If you are the type of person who believes being politically correct is a wonderful thing, don't read this review!
Because let's be honest about it. Boxing has gotten boring as hell. As properly pointed out in The Great White Hype , the biggest fight in the last decade or so was Tyson-Givens . . .
. . . two . . . three . . . four . . . (rim shot)
TGWH is a sharp, nasty-tongued satire of the professional sport called Prize Fighting. The managers are greedy con artists. The "athletes" are not all, shall we say, intelligent. The hangers-on are fairly useless yes-men. If you are on the team, your reward is gold and free luxury hotel suites. If you are removed from the team, as one member of our illustrious cast is, you have to settle for sponge baths. Everyone else on the outside wants to be in on the action; wants to be on the inside.
If you don't mind hearing the "F" word used a couple of hundred times, and are as jaded about "professional" athletics as Cranky is, you'll probably have a good time if you sit yourself down. If you're not jaded, you'll probably laugh just as hard.
Briefly, Samuel L. Jackson plays Fred Sultan, manager of the World Heavyweight Title-Holder James "the Grim Reaper" Roper (Damon Wayans). Wayans thinks he has money coming to him, but, he is told, the gate is down. The pay-per-view is down. And the ten million promised "just isn't there" (says Sultan in a performance he has often delivered). Simply, the champ has bananas for brains, is easily sweet talked out of the money contractually owed to him, and bought off with a pair of Rolls Royce automobiles. To add to the half dozen he had previously been bought off with.
Sultan realizes that all-purpose America, i.e. all the white folks laying down the green stuff, are bored silly with dumb black men beating up on each other. He remembers that the highest grossing fight in history was a black man versus a white man. So he sets out to recreate this racial conflict, seeking out the only man who has ever beaten the champ. Who just happened to be white, and who is now a passive, non-violent Buddhist frontman of a punk rock band.
. . . two . . . three . . . four (rim shot)
Also in the mix is the legitimate contender for the throne, managed by Jamie Foxx. This boxer is so good, he'll never get his shot. We've also got the investigative reporter (Jeff Goldblum) out to reveal Sultan for the con artist he really is.
Not to mention dozens of women in the background scenery, all of whom will one day complain about back problems. Welcome to Las Vegas, folks. It's glitter, it's glam, it's all a show, it's all a con, and The Great White Hype rips it all down.
Thank screenwriters Tony Hendra and Ron Shelton for this. Hendra is best remembered for his work with "The National Lampoon" in its salad days back in the 1970s. Shelton wrote and directed two of the best sports-themed movies of the last decade -- White Men Can't Jump and Bull Durham . Taking WMCJ up to the next level, he and Hendra and he have delivered a script that is a satiric ripsnorter. Only rarely does it fall back on crude jokes, and it is more than familiar with the language of the street, which figures prominently in some of the slams. The supporting cast is chock full of fine comedians (see the list up top), all delivering on the goods.
It is a fairly straightforward story, and Cranky liked it. As liberal as I profess to be, the constant obscenity got to be a bit much after not a short while. But I lived with it, 'cuz there were more than enough laughs present. Not belly laughs, mind you, but good solid digs and slams. That's what satire is about.
So, who is The Great White Hype aimed at? With a large number of minorities in starring roles, is it a film targeted at a non-white audience? Based on the preview audience I sat with you would think so. So, being the nice white Jewish boy that he is, Cranky headed right for his skin-folk and Crankified 'em.
The white folks liked it, too. So if that concern even passes for a moment across the decision making part of your brain, worry only about the excessive use of the "F" word. If that would bother you, stay away. If not, don't.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for The Great White Hype, he would have paid . . .
It's funny, but not funny enough that I'd want to come back again. And, old fart that I am becoming, the language became obsessive as the film moved into its final half. Which is why I didn't let it crack $7.
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